Mill Spring, NC - Thirty-three horse and rider combinations went head-to-head in the biggest "Saturday Night Lights" event of the 2017 season at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) featuring the $380,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* competition in front of the packed stands of the George H. Morris Arena.
Ultimately the FEI World Number One Kent Farrington (USA) captured top honors aboard Gazelle, owned by Farrington and Robin Parsky. Eugenio Garza (MEX) and longtime mount Bariano finished in second place with a jump-off time of 35.918 seconds. Richie Moloney (IRL) and Carrabis Z stopped the timers in 35.637 seconds and added four faults for third place.
The jump-off brought back only three riders to contest the short course and had the entire venue of 9,000 spectators on their feet as they watched the top three combinations take on the competitive course designed by Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER). Farrington and the 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare (Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Diva 'Ter Elsen'), stopped timers after an incredibly quick round ending in 34.676 seconds.
While Farrington emphasized that tonight's course was very difficult, he also acknowledged that his mount is not easily stumped by hard questions. "Gazelle is a very experienced horse, so I think that I have the advantage that she's been around the world and seen a lot of things. They'd have to build something crazy that she hasn't seen before," he said. "The ring rides smaller than it looks. The jumps come up fast and with a lot of people I think it's more difficult for the horses than you would expect when you first walk the course. I think it was an excellent course, and Olaf is a very good builder. I expected five clear, and we ended up with three, so I thought it was a stronger course for a bigger money class, which was appropriate for today."
Despite the tense competitive environment and exciting atmosphere, Farrington commented that Gazelle is a reliable athlete in these kinds of situation. "She's a very sweet horse at home. She likes everybody and she likes attention, but in the ring she's an unbelievable competitor," he explained. "I don't know how many Grand Prix classes she's won this year, but I always can count on her and when she's in the jump-off I can really call on her and take big risks. She's incredibly careful, so I'm not worried about the jumps, but try to not make any mistakes and stay out of her way."
Second place honors were captured by 21-year-old Garza and the 2001 Belgian Warmblood gelding (Jetset-D x Ulderina Van Westleven), who were the first to produce a double clear effort in round one. The pair also entered the jump-off round as the first combination, finishing behind Farrington in 35.918 seconds. The pair has been together for nearly Garza's entire career and their bond has only grown stronger as they have moved through the levels. Garza stated, "Bariano has been my longtime partner for forever. I did the Children's Jumpers with him, so obviously it's very nice to have a horse you can grow up with. This week we really took it day by day since he is a little bit older and the CSI 5* is not in his comfort zone."
"He's such an amazing horse, and has so much heart. I think he showed that tonight. He tried really hard and when we went clear it was an absolutely unbelievable feeling. Then we just hoped there weren't as many clear," he laughed. "The course was great, and I really did have a blast. I couldn't have hoped for anything more from him or my team," he concluded. Third place honors were presented to Richie Moloney (IRL) and Carrabis Z, a 2003 Belgian Warmblood stallion (Canabis Z x Ma Pomme VD Zwarte Hoek), owned by Equinimity LLC. The pair were hot on Farrington's heels until the final fence of the track, which was tipped from the cups and led to four faults. Moloney discussed his round and the advantage of going later in the class.
"It's always nice to see riders go beforehand, and where most riders did five strides from fence three to four, I did six, and that was my plan from the start. It always helps to go later. In the jump-off, Kent is always very quick, so we tried to catch him, but not today."
Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), concluded the evening by discussing the incredible turnout of both top riders and spectators the venue sees with each passing competition. "I think there's a lot of great challenges with equestrian sport in this country, in terms of building a following of spectators," said Bellissimo. "It was really amazing to see at the end a lot of people stuck around and people had a following for Kent as he rode around the ring. We're pulling great crowds, which I think makes the sport much more interesting. It's one thing to go out and see some world class competitors like Kent, Eugenio and Richie, but to see a crowd appreciate it means a lot."
Bellissimo continued, "I want to thank Rolex as well. It's very unusual for a brand like Rolex to take a bet on a piece of dirt, which four years ago is all this place was: a bunch of rolling hills. For them to step up and be a sponsor of this venue is greatly appreciated. They're all here for this event and I want to thank them for that. I think [TIEC] is really emerging as one of the top destinations in this country and we anticipate that it will be one of the world's top destinations as we prepare for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in September of 2018."
"This was a great preview of the competitors that will be participating in that event, so we're excited about the present and the future of the facility and the venue," he concluded.
For more information on TIEC, please visit www.tryon.com.
Final Results $380,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*
1. GAZELLE, 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare by Kasmir van Schuttershof x Indoctro KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington & Robin Parksy: 0/0/34.676
2. BARIANO, 2001 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Jetset-D x Skippy EUGENIO GARZA (MEX), El Milagro: 0/0/35.918
3. CARRABIS Z, 2003 Zangersheide stallion by Canabis Z x Grannusso RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 0/4/35.637
4. ROYCE, 2004 Oldenburg stallion by Cafe Au Lait x Grandilot MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Gladewinds Partners LLC: 4/73.11
5. CASALL, 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Capitol I ALI WOLFF (USA), Blacklick Bend Farm: 4/76.61
6. TRADITION DE LA ROQUE, 2007 Selle Francais mare by Kannan x Oberon Du Moulin REED KESSLER (USA), Kessler Show Stables Europe BV: 4/77.37
7. FEDOR, 2005 Belgian Warmblood by Kashmir van Schuttershof x Orkaan SCOTT KEACH (AUS), Southern Cross Equestrian: 4/78.09
8. HH CONRAD, 2005 Holsteiner stallion by Con Air x Locato QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 4/78.16
9. CHAQUI Z, 2006 Zangersheide stallion by Chacco-blue x Quinar Z SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 4/78.55
10. S & L SAGE, 2007 Belgian Warmblood by Wandor Van De Mispelaere x Radiator DAVID RAPOSA (USA), S & L Farms: 5/80.79
11. HILTON VAN DE BREEPOEL, 2007 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Contact Van De Heffinick x Opium BRITTNI RAFLOWITZ (USA), ESI Show Jumpers Inc.: 5/81.1
12. SANCHA LS, 2003 La Silla mare by Chin Chin x Polydor DANIEL BLUMAN (ISR), Daniel Bluman: 8/73.75